June 7th, 2013 | by Noah Gottschalk
Maysa Abdel Razaq al Akhras and her children sit in the dilapidated apartment that is now their home in Lebanon. Photo by Sam Tarling/Oxfam
When the UN launches the biggest humanitarian appeal in its history— as it did today for $5 billion—it’s hard to ignore the urgency behind the record-breaking number.
For countless Syrians, who have endured two years of brutal conflict, that urgency is a daily reality. With their homes bombed and their jobs gone, where will they live? How will they get food, water, medicine?
“We are witnessing the daily human wreckage of a country tearing itself apart,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director. “This is the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis. The scale is staggering and getting worse.”
The UN estimates that more than 1.6 million refugees have now fled Syria to seek safety in neighboring countries. They have arrived with virtually nothing and face huge obstacles in meeting the needs of their families. Inside Syria, an estimated 4.25 million people have been displaced.
“Our house was bombed. It’s all gone. Nothing left,” said a woman who is too afraid to offer her name. She is now living in a small room—about 8 feet by 20 feet—inside an unused restaurant in Lebanon. Seven other members of her extended family are crowded into the dark, damp room with her. There is no running water. And the family can only afford to eat one decent meal a day, with whatever is left-over providing meager fixings for a second.
“Is no one in America, Europe watching the news? Are they not seeing what is happening to us?” she asked. Read the rest of this entry »
July 6th, 2012 | by Noah Gottschalk
For South Sudanese moving back to what is now their new country, return and reintegration have been fraught with difficulty.
As I stood in front of the long, dusty, metallic brown train, amidst mountains of burlap sacks which South Sudanese had used to wrap their belongings for the long journey from Khartoum to the new Republic of South Sudan, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned my head to see a face that was familiar if not immediately recognizable. I squinted in the sun for a moment and then it came to me. I took a step back in disbelief. He turned to my puzzled colleague and explained: “I was his teacher.”
The memories flooded back to me. A decade earlier, the man standing in front of me in Wau had been a refugee in Cairo who volunteered his time to interpret for fellow South Sudanese who had fled to Egypt to escape Africa’s longest-running civil war, which scattered millions across Sudan, Africa, and the World. More than interpreters of language, people like N___ were interpreters of culture. By translating for people like me – mostly foreign volunteers who had come to Cairo to provide legal assistance to asylum-seekers – and teaching us about their countries, they bridged not just the language divide but also the cultural divide so that together we could help asylum-seekers navigate the often difficult path to refugee status.
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